Does Offred escape in The Handmaid’s Tale, or will she be stuck in oppressive Gilead for good?

Fans have been waiting to see Offred escape—but does she ever get away?

Elizabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale
(Image credit: Hulu)

Fans have been eager to see Offred escape in The Handmaid’s Tale ever since the first dramatic season, but does she ever manage to free herself from Gilead’s oppressive regime? 

As all The Handmaid’s Tale fans know, there’s one thing people have been waiting for ever since the very first episode— to see Offred escape Gilead. Stripped of her true name and forced to become a Handmaid and serve Commander Fred Waterford, Offred has had her life controlled for many years. Yet the defiant protagonist isn’t about to let the terrifying dystopian republic beat her now, as season after season we've seen her fight back. 

With The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 racing ever closer to what promises to be a particularly dramatic finale, there’s never been a better time to find out how to watch The Handmaid’s Tale and catch up on all you’ve missed. For those who have read the book, the latest episode has definitely taken Offred's story in an unexpected direction, but there's still one question that viewers can't help asking.

Does Offred escape Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale?

 *Warning: spoilers ahead!*  

Does Offred escape in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Throughout the dystopian drama, fans have been willing determined Handmaid Offred to escape totalitarian Gilead. And on many occasions throughout the show’s four seasons, it’s looked like she might be able to slip through the republic’s tight grip. Revealed in flashbacks in the show, viewers come to learn that Offred in her pre-Gilead life as June Osborne did attempt to escape across the border with her husband Luke and their daughter Hannah before the republic rose to power.

After they were spotted and their car crashed, Luke urged his wife and child to flee, though in a tragic turn of events they never made it. Instead, both were captured and mother and child were separated, with Offred forced to become a Handmaid and Hannah being given to another family. It is her desire to reunite with her firstborn child that later motivates Offred to to remain in Gilead when others would have fled had they been given the opportunity.

After Offred got pregnant in The Handmaid's Tale, viewers were on tenterhooks waiting to see how things would work out after the baby was born. And in the dramatic The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 finale, they were left reeling after Offred fled the Waterfords’ house with baby Nichole and looked to be set to escape Gilead once and for all, only to change her mind.

In the final moments of the episode, Offred hands Nichole to her friend Emily aboard a truck, but refuses to accompany them and tells them to go on without her.

She makes this same choice again in the season 3 finale, where she and other Handmaids and Marthas stayed behind to provide a distraction. This allowed many people to escape to Canada, though Offred is shot multiple times by a Gilead guard in the process.

As previously reported by Forbes, the choice to have Offred remain behind once again was a deliberate decision by the showrunner Bruce Miller to show how Offred is fighting back.

“By helping all the children and Marthas and Handmaids escape, she was trying to hurt Gilead”, he said. “But she couldn’t step foot on that plane without her daughter, Hannah. This wasn’t about her saving herself, she’s in ‘I am going to hurt Gilead mode’.”

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Offred’s love for Hannah drives her to remain in the place that has hurt her so deeply. Yet now, finally, in season 4, fans have got to see Offred escape. In episode 6,  entitled Vows, it’s shown that Offred managed to get to Canada thanks to her friend Moira, who also helped convince her not to abandon the escape attempt and go back to Gilead. 

And though it’s a relief to see Offred free from the republic, the question of how long she will stay in Canada without Hannah is a significant one. After all she’s gone through to try and find her daughter, it’s unlikely that she’s going to give up now, wherever she may be. 

Does Offred escape in the book? 

Die-hard fans will already be clued up on all the major The Handmaid’s Tale book vs show differences, but when it comes to the ending, it remains to be seen which path the dystopian drama will take. In The Handmaid’s Tale book, the last time readers see Offred is when she’s boarding a secret van. With her fate not confirmed, fans had to wait 34 years until Margaret Atwood gave them the answer they’d been waiting for with the novel's bestselling sequel. The Testaments could hold the key to season 4 and the book reveals that Offred survived her escape attempt.

Elisabeth Moss in Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

However, her precise whereabouts remain unknown after she managed to escape multiple assassination attempts. Sadly for Offred fans, she is not one of The Testament’s three narrators, though that doesn’t mean her presence isn’t felt deeply throughout the book. She is known to be fighting back at Gilead from the outside.

And though Gilead is still in existence 15 years after the original story—much to the horror of many readers—with rising activism and corrupt secrets revealed, Margaret does imply that this terrifying regime will finally meet its end.

Whilst we don't yet know what the rest of The Handmaid's Tale season 4 has in store, seeing Offred escape Gilead is a moment we'll never forget!

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with seven years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.